It’s never a good look for the leader of a Christian university to be photographed with unzipped pants, hugging a younger woman who is not his wife.
But Jerry Falwell Jr, president of America’s largest Christian university, Liberty University, posted such a photo of himself to Instagram on Monday. It was swiftly taken down but a Houston Chronicle journalist, Robert Downen, tweeted a screenshot of the “vacation” shot.
“I’ve promised my kids … I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out.” – Jerry Falwell Jr
Falwell Jr is one of America’s most prominent evangelical Christians and a key supporter of President Trump (his father, Jerry Falwell Sr, co-founded the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, a political movement linking the Christian right and Republican Party).
Falwell Jr also heads up a university which has a strict code of conduct for students, including a conservative dress code that stipulates “hairstyles and fashion should avoid extremes” and “students must dress modestly and appropriately at all times.”
Cries of hypocrisy were swift about the bizarre shot of Falwell with a black t-shirt tied above his navel and the top of his underwear exposed. As outlined online by Liberty student Alexandra Green, Falwell’s “vacation” behaviour violated many of Liberty’s rules for students. Green finished by quoting a New Testament principle.
Romans 2:21a – “thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thy self?”
Romans 2:23 – “Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?”
If you’re going to set a law, you must be the first to follow it.
— Alexandra M. Green (@Alex_andra_MG) August 3, 2020
“More vacation shots. Lots of good friends visited us on the yacht,” read the caption of the photo showing Falwell also holding a glass of black liquid. “I promise that’s just black water in my glass. It was a prop only.”
Other photos were posted to Falwell Jr ‘s Instagram account which appear to be from the same yacht party where guests were apparently dressed in the theme of Trailer Park Boys, a Canadian TV comedy show.
“I’ve apologised to everybody,” Falwell Jr told a local radio station on Wednesday morning. “And I’ve promised my kids … I’m gonna try to be a good boy from here on out.”
He explained on WLNI FM in Lynchburg, Virginia – Falwell’s home town and the location of Liberty campus – that the woman in the photo was his wife’s assistant.
“She’s pregnant so she couldn’t get her — she couldn’t get her pants up,” he said about the context of the photo. “And I was like, trying to like — my — I had on pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in a long time so I couldn’t get mine zipped either. And so — and so — I just put my belly — I just put my belly out like hers.”
In an overview of Falwell Jr’s Instagram scandal, the Relevant Daily podcast outlined how this was not the first controversy the Liberty head has experienced.
“Falwell has weathered frequent criticism in recent years for his aggressive Twitter tone, his cavalier attitude towards COVID-19 and accusations of racial insensitivity that have led to a wave of high profile departures among black Liberty students,” reported the Relevant Daily podcast.
“Falwell has also come under scrutiny for past accusations of salacious activity. There have been reports that President Donald Trump’s one-time fixer turned adversary Michael Cohen, once briefly attempted to help the Falwell’s with a leak of a sexually revealing photo, and other photographs of Falwell at a nightclub have surfaced. Falwell has said those images were ‘photoshopped‘.”